Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Irish: A Photohistory 1840-1940

The Irish: A Photohistory 1840-1940 by Sean Sexton and Christine Kinealy
Thames & Hudson 224 pp £24.95
ISBN: 0 500 51097 0

Review by Sheila Corr

I am always excited to get my hands on an attractive new book on Ireland, especially when the reproduction is of such high quality. This one contains over 270 photographs from Sean Sexton’s Irish collection, which range from mid-nineteenth-century daguerreotypes to twentieth-century press shots, although most of the photographs were taken during a fifty- or sixty-year period around the turn of the last century. They are organised thematically – land, landlords and the big house; poverty, famine, evictions; from union to partition; towards a modern Ireland; with an interesting supporting text by Christine Kinealy under the same headings but with slightly different subject matter, so that text and photographs move along somewhat independently.

Similar chapter divisions worked rather better in Sean Sexton’s previous book Ireland: Photographs 1840-1930 which includes some of the same selection. Here, the distinctions sometimes seem rather forced. It’s clever, and a nice touch, to include photographs of Irish people outside Ireland, as emigration is obviously so critical to Irish history in this period, and it offers an opportunity to use some wonderful pictures, such as that of vagrants in Scotland on the title page. Perhaps, these pictures of emigrants could have been used together in some way, they might even have formed their own chapter which would have made this ....

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